August 21, 2006


Five Years On (MARK STEYN, August 21, 2006, NY Sun)

One way to measure how the world has changed in these last five years is to consider the extraordinary address to his nation by General Musharraf on September 19th 2001. Pakistan was one of just three countries in the world (along with "our friends the Saudis" and the United Arab Emirates) to recognize the Taliban — and, given that the Pakistanis had helped create and maintain them, they were pretty easy to recognize. President Bush, you'll recall, had declared that you're either with us or you're with the terrorists — which posed a particular problem for Musharraf: He was with us but everyone else in his country was with the terrorists, including his armed forces, his intelligence services, the media, and a gazillion and one crazy imams.

Nonetheless, with American action against Afghanistan on the horizon, he went on TV that night and told the Pakistani people that this was the gravest threat to the country's existence in over 30 years. He added that he was doing everything to ensure his brothers in the Taliban didn't "suffer," and that he'd asked Washington to provide some evidence that this bin Laden chap had anything to do with the attacks but that so far they'd declined to show him any. Then he cited the Charter of Medina (which the Prophet Muhammad signed after an earlier spot of bother) as an attempt to justify providing assistance to the infidel, and said he'd had no choice but to offer the Americans use of Pakistan's airspace, intelligence networks and other logistical support.

He paused for applause, and after the world's all-time record volume of crickets chirping, said thank you and goodnight.

That must have been quite the phone call he'd got from Washington a day or two earlier. And all within a week of September 11th. You may remember during the 2000 campaign an enterprising journalist sprung on Gov. Bush a sudden pop quiz of world leaders. Bush, invited to name the leader of Pakistan, was unable to. But so what? In the third week of September 2001, the correct answer to "Who's General Musharraf?" was "Whoever I want him to be." And, if Musharraf didn't want to play ball, he'd wind up as the answer to "Who was leader of Pakistan until last week?"

Do you get the feeling Washington's not making phone calls like that anymore?

Mr. Steyn has the misfortune to have this essay appear in the NY Sun newsletter just below another one citing Pakistan, Targeting Air Traffic (AMNON RUBINSTEIN, August 21, 2006, NY Sun)
The plot failed: cooperation between the security services of the United Kingdom, Pakistan, and America foiled the plan to massacre hundreds of air passengers over the Atlantic through the explosion of sophisticated undetectable chemicals set off by Islamist British-born suicide terrorists.

That the phone calls occur now before the attacks is not retrograde movement.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 21, 2006 9:50 AM

I have the feeling that Bush keeps his eye on the target and doesn't allow himself to be distracted by the media.

Posted by: erp at August 21, 2006 11:15 AM